Sam Altman Departs as OpenAI CEO Amidst Surprising Board Decision ; Mira Murati Steps Up
ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, has undoubtedly been a trailblazer in the realm of AI technology, far surpassing many competitors’ attempts in the field.
Its launch last year quickly overshadowed Google’s AI chatbot, Bart, marking a significant shift in the industry.
Sam Altman, co-founder and a key figure in ChatGPT’s rise, became synonymous with AI innovation. However, this changed abruptly this past Friday morning.
Altman’s departure was announced via a tweet, which left the global community in shock.
i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people.
will have more to say about what’s next later.
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 17, 2023
In his farewell tweet, Altman expressed his fondness for his time at OpenAI and praised his former colleagues for their remarkable talent.
This tweet, posted just slightly more than eight hours ago, has already made a significant impact, garnering nearly 12 million views.
The specifics behind Altman’s sudden departure remain shrouded in mystery. Even OpenAI’s official statement offered no clear explanation.
Just two days prior, Altman was actively discussing ChatGPT’s operational strategies.
Now, he finds himself completely detached from the company.
According to OpenAI’s statement, the board cited Altman’s lack of consistent candor as the reason for his exit, claiming it hindered their oversight abilities. In their words, they said Altman was “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”
Did Altman Fulfill The AI Mission?
The board expressed lost confidence in Altman’s leadership, emphasising OpenAI’s commitment to advancing AI for the benefit of humanity.
While details were sparse, the implication was that new leadership was necessary to uphold this mission.
This led to widespread speculation: Did Altman deviate from OpenAI’s core mission?
Amidst these rumors, Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s ex-president and co-founder, expressed his shock and sadness in a retweet, suggesting the decision was not internally discussed.
Sam and I are shocked and saddened by what the board did today.
Let us first say thank you to all the incredible people who we have worked with at OpenAI, our customers, our investors, and all of those who have been reaching out.
We too are still trying to figure out exactly…
— Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 18, 2023
Brockman revealed that Altman learned of his dismissal in a surprise Google Meet, where Brockman was notably absent.
It was at that very meeting that Altman, without Brockman present, learned that he was “being fired” and that they would issue an official statement very soon.
Shortly after, Brockman himself was removed from the board but retained in the company, a decision made without his knowledge. The board thought he was vital to the company and would retain his role – just no longer as the president.
According to Brockman, the management team only found out about this afterwards.
Both Altman and Brockman responded with grace, expressing pride in OpenAI’s team, and hinting at future endeavours.
Interim CEO: Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati
Mira Murati, OpenAI’s Chief Technology Officer, steps in as interim CEO.
With five years at OpenAI, the board of directors believe that her deep involvement in AI governance and policy makes her a fitting choice for a smooth transition while a permanent CEO is sought.
Murati, a key player in developing ChatGPT and Dall-E, expressed her honour at taking on this new role, as reported in a memo to staff, according to Bloomberg.
Altman’s departure has caused a flurry in the trading of OpenAI shares, with some transactions halted or canceled.
Microsoft Corp., a significant investor in OpenAI, experienced a stock price dip following the news. They have pumped $10 billion into the company, and their stock price fell by 1.6%, and another 1% in afterhours trading.
However, they reaffirmed their commitment to OpenAI, as conveyed by Murati after discussions with Microsoft’s leadership.
More To The Story
Since its inception as a non-profit in 2015, OpenAI’s mission has been to ensure the beneficial development of artificial general intelligence.
The 2019 restructuring allowed it to attract capital while adhering to its original goals.
With a majority of independent directors on its board, OpenAI maintains a unique governance structure, focusing on its “mission” to advance AI for the good of humanity, rather than profit.
That has helped the company quickly gain 100 million users after the launch of ChatGPT last November.
Together with the launch of ChatGPT, Altman was made an overnight celebrity, and a well-known advocate of AI, who gave up his studies at Stanford University to dedicate his attention to developing AI.
In fact, he became one of the only few tech CEOs to meet with White House leaders, including Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden.
Altman’s exit leaves many questioning OpenAI’s future direction.
Pieter Abbeel, a former OpenAI researcher and current AI expert, expressed his bafflement at the news.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Abbeel expressed, “It’s kind of crazy to think that GPT-4 would not have existed without Sam.”
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt had also showed his support, even calling Altman “a hero of mine”, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, Rowan Curran, a senior analyst at Forrester specialising in generative AI and machine learning, encourages people to view this exit as just another high-level executive changes within the technology industry.
You can also watch this video to know more about AI:
While the reason for Altman’s exit stays a mystery, ChatGPT itself seems to speculate more behind-the-scenes of this saga.
ChatGPT’s take. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/1rk0vz8fPR
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 17, 2023
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